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‘Smitho’ my first

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EDITOR: When our class entered the St. Vincent Grammar School in January 1954 in Form 2B, we were not allowed to study physics as a science subject.
We did not have the laboratory equipment or even someone qualified to teach physics. Lopey was then the headmaster, and Winston Baptiste taught biology and botany as well as being scoutmaster and games master.{{more}}
The science subjects then offered were chemistry at School Certificate (SC) and Higher Certificate (HSC) levels, biology at S.C. level and botany at H.S.C. level. As a science student, I took all of these subjects, but could not get physics until the arrival of Gene Smith, B.Sc from University College of the West Indies, Mona, Jamaica in September, 1957.
“Smitho”, as he was called, was a Jamaican and was well liked by his charges. He was an excellent science teacher. He soon realised that Vincentian students were eager to acquire knowledge in the sciences and quickly placed an order for a machine to make distilled water and other necessary equipment for a physics laboratory. Before that, we had to “borrow” distilled water from the hospital laboratory.
Forms 3A and 3B got the first exposure in physics in 1958 and wrote the subject at S.C. level in December 1960, and at the H.S.C. level in 1962. This was a very bright class that included Joel Huggins who later became an engineer and the general manager of Vinlec. Smith wrote a booklet called “A Primer of Physics”, which was very popular with the students. In addition to physics he also taught chemistry and got excellent results from his students.
From these early beginnings, a lot of Vincentian students have benefitted from studying physics.
Up to 1958, if a student wished to study engineering or related fields, he would have to travel overseas to study physics for the first time. Today our students have opportunities that others before could only dream about. We have so many engineers in S.V.G. today which was not possible before. We even have two students in the U.S.A. who hold Ph.Ds in physics, Lennox Iton in Chicago and Franklyn Constance in Virgina.
We have come a long way from humble beginnings. Thank you Gene Smith for being a trail blazer in the field of education in St. Vincent and the Grenadines…

Errol G. King, M.D.

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